|Worth seeing:||for an insight into the on and off-pitch antics of a footballing legend, known for being part God and part devil.|
|Featuring:||Diego Maradona, Claudia Villafañe, Cristiana Sinagra|
|Released:||14th June 2019|
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
After delivering highly acclaimed documentaries about the racing driver Ayrton Senna and the singer Amy Winehouse, the British director Asif Kapadia has turned his attention on Argentina’s Diego Maradona, seen by many football commentators as the greatest player, if not ever, at least of his generation.
Skimming over the early years of his career at Boca Juniors and Barcelona, Kapadia follows Maradona through his time at the Italian club Napoli, using archive film, Maradona’s own footage, interviews with some close to him and with the footballer himself.
The film pokes its nose into everything from Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” goal that knocked England out of the 1986 World Cup, his associations with the Mafia, allegations of infidelity and a drug habit that curtailed his glittering career.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Asif Kapadia uses a similar approach to his previous documentaries to get under the skin of one of sport’s most enigmatic figures – loved and loathed in equal measure – a man some felt was touched by God, while others thought he’d been touched by the devil.
This eponymous film confirms that there’s a bit of both, bursting to the seams with on-field action that will send football fans into fits of rapture – or frustration, depending on their allegiances or ability to separate the genius from his nationality.
Told mostly through archive footage, with contemporaneous voiceovers – but with a handful of new voice-only interviews, including one with Maradona himself – it can be a difficult watch, trying to keep up with who’s saying what and other information on the screen, in addition to subtitled translations of Spanish and Italian.
It’s a little too easy just to get lost in the atmosphere – the crowd noise – the mellifluous moves – the tabloid photos – and every now and then you’ll stop yourself, realising that you’ve missed a little of what’s been said.
Kapadia is very specific about which part of Maradona’s illustrious career – and corresponding off-pitch antics – he’s interested in and as such, there is a sense that some memorable moments are skimmed over or dismissed in a pre-title sequence that tackles everything up until he arrives at Napoli.
The documentary includes all the ingredients of many of Hollywood’s favourite films – from sporting thrills and scandal to ruthless gangsters, copious drug-taking and fallen heroes – but somehow, it doesn’t play like the thriller you might expect in the circumstances.
Unlike Senna and Amy, with a subject who’s still alive, there seems to be a little less mystery shrouding the protagonist but also a sense that we might not be getting the full story – as there might still be more of a story to tell.
And with Amy Winehouse dying in her late 20s, while Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash came in his early 30s, following Maradona through his period under the spotlight – even before the social media age – means there are fewer surprises. Even what’s set up as a big revelation in the end credits was something that featured in news bulletins several years ago, so anyone who cares will know what’s set up as a twist anyway.
Kapadia is said to have had trouble finding all of the archive footage that he needed to tell his story – and it appears that he felt that with that in mind, he wasn’t going to waste the fruits of his efforts. There are a number of occasions where scenes linger a little too long, hanging a little loose and giving us just a little more than we need to get the point, contributing to a running time in excess of two hours, which isn’t really warranted by the material, and occasionally making the film feel as flabby as its protagonist became after the end of his playing career.
With so many fascinating elements put together without as clear a sense of purpose as its predecessors, Kapadia has delivered a documentary much like the legend of the same name at its heart; a bit of a flawed gem.